A four-wheel-drive vehicle on the Pritchett Canyon Trail near Moab, Utah. Photo by Travis Burke.
While hikers in the Arches and Canyonlands national parks near Moab, Utah, get to see some pretty breathtaking scenery, some of the area’s most enchanting landscape is also the most inaccessible. That is, it’s inaccessible unless you’re an expert four-wheel driver. Luckily for me, I met up with four-wheel drive enthusiast Jim “Chief” Molter, 74, when I was out in Utah recently, and he took me on a 6-mile drive along the Pritchett Canyon Trail. The trail is one of the most challenging in the U.S., as you have to scramble over sheer rock walls and massive boulders, and it took us all day to complete it. Take a look at my gallery of the trail, and if you’re thinking about visiting Moab, book your tickets soon–high season begins in March.
When we were approaching this obstacle, I figured it would be impossible to clear it, but Molter told me not to worry and we cleared it easily. I got a kick out of watching a little 74-year-old man charging through the desert. Despite his skill, Molter always drives with a buddy vehicle, and both vehicles are equipped with motorized winches and pulleys in case one of them gets stuck and needs assistance over a barrier. Photo by Travis Burke.
Molter was in the Navy for 23 years and retired as a master chief, hence his nickname “Chief.” He keeps himself busy with the off-roading community, and he’s vice president of a group called Moab Friends for Wheelin‘. Photo by Travis Burke.
Molter’s buddies were in the vehicle behind us. Photo by Travis Burke.
Off-road enthusiasts Mark and Linda Stolte. Photo by Travis Burke.
When the buggies approach the obstacles, such as this 5-foot-tall rock wall, it doesn’t seem possible that they’ll be able to maneuver over them. But then they slowly begin crawling up and over, and you begin to realize just how capable these machines are. Photo by Travis Burke.
When the four-wheelers begin to lean over an obstacle, it feels like the machine is going to topple over. Photo by Travis Burke.
Molter knows the terrain so well that he radios upcoming obstacles and advice on how to tackle them back to his friends whenever they approach something new. Photo by Travis Burke.
Molter takes pride in making sure the off-road trails around Moab are some of the cleanest and well-maintained in the world. Whenever he sees a sign that needs fixing, he fixes it; whenever someone litters the area with a beer bottle or piece of garbage, he picks it up. Photo by Travis Burke.
Some of the beautiful landscape we got to experience. Photo by Travis Burke.